Paying for utilities and services

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There are different rules for who pays for the ongoing cost of utilities and services, depending on what they are.

You can also read about setting up utilities and services.

On this page:

Other pages have information about replacing water, gas and electrical appliances

Water and sewerage

If the property has its own meter, the renter must pay for the water they use, as well as the sewage disposal charge, unless the rental provider (landlord) agrees to pay. In that case, it should be in the rental agreement (lease) as a special condition. The rental provider is still responsible for charges relating to the sewerage infrastructure connecting to the house.

If the property doesn’t have its own meter, the rental provider must pay.

The rental provider must pay all other charges related to water supply and sewerage or drainage services as well as all charges relating to the pumping out and cleaning of sewerage tanks, unless damage has been caused by the renter. Different rules may apply when a tank is the main source.

The rental provider must pay for cartage charges for: 

  • drinking water, unless the charges are related to the amount of water supplied to the rented premises during the renter’s occupation 
  • refilling fire safety water tanks. 

Electricity, gas and oil

The rental provider must pay to have the electricity, gas or oil supply installed and connected. 

Bottled gas

If the property uses bottled gas the renter pays for the supply and hire of gas bottles. 

Metered electricity, gas or oil

If the property has its own meter for electricity, gas or oil, the renter must pay all usage costs, unless the rental provider agrees to pay. In that case, it should be in the rental agreement as a special condition. If the property doesn’t have its own meter, the rental provider must pay.

Social housing heating and laundry costs

People in social housing may be charged separately for expenses such as heating and laundry. 

Phone and internet

Renters must pay for the ongoing usage costs for phone and internet, unless the rental provider agrees otherwise. 

If the renter wants to set up phone and internet connections, they will have to ask the rental provider’s permission.

There are two possible costs for connecting a property to a fixed telephone line (landline) for phone or internet use – a line connection fee and a general connection fee. 

A general connection fee is charged when there is an existing phone line at the property but it is not currently connected. 

A line connection fee is what the telephone company will charge if a telephone line has not previously been set up at the property. This may be the case if the property is new or has been empty for some time (renters should check this before they sign the rental agreement). 

A renter who wants to set up a connection to an existing phone line at the property must pay the general connection fee (unless they have a different arrangement with the rental provider) and will usually be charged for this in their first telephone bill.

If there is no line connection at the property but the renter wants one to access phone and/or internet services, they can talk to the rental provider about having one put in. If the renter asks to make changes to the property so they can access phone or internet services, the rental provider cannot refuse without a good reason. 

The rental provider must pay all costs and charges for the initial installation of fixed internet and phone line connections to the rented premises, including through the National Broadband Network (NBN). 

Television

Television is not an essential service for rental properties. Renters who want to use a TV should check whether the property has a digital TV antenna and coaxial points before signing the lease. Renters may ask the rental provider to install these items, but the rental provider does not have to agree. 

Renters must get the rental provider's permission to install fixtures to a rental property or make any alteration, renovation or addition. This includes items such as aerials or coaxial points. Read more about renters installing fixtures and altering the rental property

Very high usage charges

If a renter gets a very high bill for using water, gas or electricity because there is a hidden fault at the property, the rental provider might have to pay the excess amount. These very high bills are also called excessive usage charges.

The rental provider only has to pay excessive usage charges if:

  • the renter notified the rental provider, as soon as possible, of the excessive charges and the fault that caused them
  • the renter didn’t cause the fault
  • the service provider isn’t responsible for the fault. 

The rental provider must also reimburse the renter for any reasonable costs incurred in diagnosing the fault by a suitably qualified tradesperson. Reasonable costs means costs that most people would think are fair. 

If the renter and rental provider can’t agree about who should pay for excessive usage charges, either one can apply to VCAT to make a decision. 

Paying for utilities that do not meet efficiency standards

If any water, gas or electricity appliances, fixtures and fittings need to be replaced, the rental provider must replace them with efficient items that meet the Australian Government’s minimum efficiency standards

Rental providers must pay the ongoing utility costs until a broken or faulty appliance has been replaced with one that meets efficiency standards.

Repayment for a utilities charge

If the renter pays a charge that should have been paid by the rental provider, they can ask the rental provider to pay them back using a Notice to rental provider of rented premises (Word, 97KB). The rental provider has 28 days to repay the charge.

Similarly, if the rental provider pays a charge that the renter should have paid, they can ask the renter to pay them back using a Notice to renter of rented premises (Word, 88KB). The renter has 28 days to repay the charge.

You must show proof, such as a receipt, that you have made the payment when you ask to be repaid. If the parties cannot agree about who should pay, either can apply to VCAT to make a decision.

VCAT can also make a decision about who should pay unpaid utilities charges when they make an order about ending a rental agreement because of family violence.

When a renter moves out

When a renter moves out, they must tell the utilities companies (including water) the date they are leaving the property. This is so the companies know when to stop charging the renter and send them a final bill. 

Until a new renter moves in and the utilities companies have the new renter’s billing details, the rental provider must pay any utility costs after the previous renter moves out. 

Special rules for caravan parks 

Caravan park residents and site tenants must pay for the installation and connection of services from a supply point on the site to their caravan or home. 

You can read more information about renting in caravan parks or renting in residential parks.

Renting law reforms

Victoria made significant changes to renting laws in 2021.

Some of the changes to laws about utilities and services are:

  • Rental providers are now liable for excessive usage charges caused by a hidden fault at the premises.
  • Renters now have to organise and pay for gas bottles.

Some language also changed:

  • Landlords are now called rental providers
  • Tenants are now called renters
  • Leasesare now called rental agreements

You can read about these and other changes in a summary of the reforms or in detailed fact sheets and guides.

Sections of the Act

If you want to know what the law says about paying for utilities and services, you can read these sections of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997:

  • Sections 52, 53, 53AAA, 53A, 53B, 54, 55, 56, 57 – Other charges (residential rental agreements)
  • Sections 108, 109A – Other charges (rooming houses)
  • Sections 120AA, 120AAB – General duties of residents and rooming house operators (rooming houses) 
  • Sections 162, 163, 164, 165, 166 – Other charges (caravan parks)
  • Section 206ZE, 206ZF – Other charges (Part 4A site agreements)